Amazon invests in vertical farming

18-10-2020    15:03   |    The Spoon

Rise Gardens announced today it has received an investment from the Amazon Alexa Fund that builds upon a $2.6M seed round Rise closed in May. The amount invested by the Amazon Alexa Fund was not disclosed.

According to a press release sent to The Spoon, the deal is both a collaboration and a cash investment that will “fuel new products, accessories and further R+D” for Rise Gardens.

The Chicago-based Rise is best known for its standalone console (roughly the size of a standard bookcase) that contains a hydroponic grow system for consumers at home. The system does most of the hard work—calculating nutrition and pH levels, knowing when and how much to water the plants—for the user, whom it notifies via a corresponding app.

Rise’s system is also modular, so it can be added to or subtracted from over time depending on how many greens your household consumes each week. Users can also grow beets and tomatoes in addition to leafy greens and herbs.

Rise raised $2.6 million in seed funding earlier this year; Amazon’s new investment is an extension of this seed funding, according to today’s press release.

Amazon’s investment in Rise sounds promising, not just for the company but for the entire vertical farming sector. To start, Rise CEO and founder Hank Adams hinted today at Alexa functionality for the Rise system: “Collaborating with the Alexa Fund will better enable us to integrate our smart, connected garden with Alexa, making indoor gardening even easier. We are also excited about the opportunity to work with Amazon to evolve and expand how we reach consumers with our device and consumables business concept,” he said. The details of that Alexa integration are scant as of now, but one imagines being able to ask Alexa about your plant’s pH levels or tell the speaker to adjust the light mixture. On the flip, Rise could notify users via Alexa when it’s time to water the plants.

There’s no question that consumer-grade vertical farms are still a pretty niche product right now, since many of them cost more than the average person can easily afford. (Rise’s single unit console starts at $549.) But the pandemic and accompanying disruptions to the food supply chain have undoubtedly increased folks’ desire to control more of what they eat, which has led to an influx of new devices. From Gardyn’s stylish take on at-home farming to consumer electronics companies like LG building them into the kitchen, vertical farming is definitely making its way into the home. 

Amazon, of course, wants to control your entire home, including your kitchen, so it’s not surprising the Seattle tech giant would partner making at-home vertical farming products. As well, the company has made forays into the gardening space before, like this patent from 2017. Amazon knowing what types of plants you are growing can fuel its selling machine to recommend recipes and other groceries.

Like it or not, Amazon’s moves in food tech tend to influence others, which means the collaborations and products that come out of the Rise partnership will influence the future of at-home vertical farming for everyone. 

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